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Richie Lesmes: The best kept secret in Queens

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You may not know who Richie Lesmes is right now, but in four months everyone in New York City high school soccer will know exactly who he is.

That’s because Lesmes may be the best soccer player in Queens, and no one knows it yet.

Lesmes hasn’t played a high school soccer game in New York, but if his play at national powerhouse St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, N.J. is any indication, whatever school he attends in the fall certainly will get a very special player.

Lesmes, who turns 17 next month, started at forward and scored 16 goals last year for a St. Benedict’s team that went 27-0 and won the New Jersey Prep School Class A state championship.

To spend more time with his mother, Isabel, who recently separated from his father, Jorge Lesmes, Richie Lesmes decided to come back home, transferring from St. Benedict’s after the fall soccer season to Monsignor McClancy, a school Lesmes attended as a freshman.

“My parents separated and my mom was by herself,” Lesmes said. “I was with my brother [David, at St. Benedict’s] and my oldest brother [George] is in the Marines so I just felt that I wanted to be home at that time.”

But because of financial constraints, Lesmes will not be able to afford another year at McClancy and still is unsure what high school he will attend in the fall. He is zoned for Bryant, but is looking into financial aid options at a few other Catholic schools.

Wherever he ends up in September, he is sure to give that team an instant-impact player unlike almost anyone else around.

That’s because Lesmes, who plays for the Brooklyn Knights U-17 team as well as the U-23 Premier Development League team, which is almost exclusively comprised of Division I college players, plays the game unlike most Americans.

Soccer, it seems, is in his blood and almost comes second nature to Lesmes.

“He’s got great skills, good composure on the ball,” said Dan Fisher, head coach of the Brooklyn Knights Premier Development League team. “A lot of American players are more athletic, but he’s a very technical player. If he gains some of that athleticism as well, he’ll be a very good player.”

Lesmes said he learned to play soccer from his father, Jorge, who played professionally in Italy’s Serie B. His brothers, George and David, also are very talented soccer players. David, who graduated from St. Benedict’s Prep, will attend St. Peter’s College in the fall.

Lesmes said George may be the best of the bunch, but he didn’t get the opportunities that Richie and David got.

One of those opportunities, Lesmes said, is the chance to play soccer at the Metropolitan Oval, a historic and hidden soccer jewel in Maspeth.

“For me, the Oval is an opportunity I take more advantage of than other people,” he said. “I don’t think that other kids really look at it as being something big, but then sooner or later they’ll realize it’s valuable.”

Lesmes learned that lesson firsthand on a soccer trip to Bolivia with St. Benedict’s Prep. While there, Lesmes played against some storied programs, including the Tahuichi Academy in Bolivia, Atlas from Mexico and the Paraguayan national youth team.

“When I went to Bolivia, it made me open my eyes because when they train, they would train on dirt fields barefooted,” he said. “And then to come here and see a field like this 10 minutes away from my house, it’s perfect.”

Lesmes first played at the Oval as a member of the famed Blau-Weiss Gottschee soccer club, where he first drew the attention of Brooklyn Knights’ chairman Chuck Jacob.

“I first saw Richie play when he was about 9 years old, and even then he was a crowd-pleaser,” Jacob said. “If you watch soccer to see the creative players with the great foot skills, you like watching Richie. It’s great he’s getting the chance with the Brooklyn Knights.”

Seven years later, Lesmes found himself on the field with the Knights U-23 team with a chance to score the game-tying goal on opening day.

Lesmes, who entered the game against the Worcester Kings, a team that had some players 10 years older than himself, in the 57th minute was called on to take a penalty kick 12 minutes later by former Knights coach Joe Barone with the Knights trailing, 1-0.

Despite efforts by Worcester goalie Ryan Spicer to get into Lesmes’ head, he calmly buried the kick for his lone PDL goal of the year, tying the game at 1. Brooklyn went on to win the game, 2-1.

“It’s a pleasure just to put on the uniform and walk out with the U-23s,” he said. “In professional soccer, you don’t really look at someone as an age, you just look at the way he plays. That’s how I look at it.”

Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.

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